Equality is good

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Even if you live under a rock, you have heard that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide a little over a week ago. I will proudly say that I am a product of my generation and completely accept and support equality.

That's kind of scary for me, because 10 years ago I quietly accepted what I now know to be homophobia. At the time, it struck me as what I had always known. I grew up in a small town in Arkansas -- a town where everybody knew your name for better or worse.

There was no question about homosexuality being right or wrong; it was wrong, and if anyone expressed otherwise, he or she would be attacked for being a homosexual.

Because supporting a thing absolutely means you are part of the thing, right? It's impossible to want equal rights for homosexuals without enjoying some same-sex love yourself, according to some of the people I went to high school with. When I was in school, the worst thing someone could say about you was that you were gay.

I remember swimming at my nana's pool with two close friends and getting out of the pool to urinate in the corner. It's not like I dropped my pants and said, "Check out my butt, everyone in viewing distance!" I just got out of the pool to urinate to avoid waking up the people inside the house. This was a thing that we did a lot at that pool, too, so it wasn't abnormal.

Still, I later learned that one of my friends whispered to the other friend, "Wow, what a lesbian." This same friend -- who I am on good terms with now and toward whom I have no ill will -- had apparently been telling people that I was a lesbian and saying she was afraid to sleep in the same bed as me lest I employ my lesbian prowess.

When I heard about this, I was really upset. Initially, I was upset because I felt I was being attacked for something that wasn't even true. The anger quickly boiled over and left me even more angry. This time, I was angry because of the implication that being a lesbian somehow meant I was a person to be mocked.

I have to get this straight: I am not a lesbian. I acknowledge that some women are attractive but have never been sexually attracted to women. That doesn't mean I don't support the rights of those who do. That especially doesn't mean I'm cool with people mocking a person in the LGBT community.

Another memory that sticks out for me is a petition outside the local mom and pop store in my hometown. It was a petition to ban gay couples from adopting children, and it had more signatures than I'd ever like to admit on a public forum. I was 16 years old, and I felt sick to my stomach. I wondered how people could be so hateful. I wondered how anyone could justify treating gay people the same way you would treat murderers or rapists.

I am lucky that I have such an open-minded and caring mother. My grandmother, too, is an amazing woman who tries to see the best in other people. Though my mother never expressed outright support for the LGBT community, she confessed to me once or twice that all the hatred bothered her. She has said on several occasions that she doesn't understand homosexuality but believes it's important to respect the decisions of others.

My nana said something similar when we talked on the phone Saturday.

"It's not my belief, but I'm not going to let my belief stand in the way of others being happy," she told me. "It's their life, not mine."

Some people might ask for more from my mom and nana, but I think their acceptance is astounding considering the culture they grew up and live in. It's OK to admit that something confuses you. It's not OK to use your confusion to prevent an entire group of people from having rights.

As I said, I am very lucky to have the mother I have. She has taught me to be compassionate, honest and mindful of others. Because of that attitude, I am over the moon about the Supreme Court's decision.

Marriage equality means acceptance. It might mean that one less lesbian gets mocked for her sexual preference.

I think that's pretty cool.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.